The 12-kilometer stretch of the Southwest Ring Road opened today, marking a major milestone in the massive infrastructure project that will eventually encircle Calgary, but the celebration and smiles mean a family lost their land.
An extension of the freeway, known as the Suvetina Trail, travels between Fish Creek Boulevard and the Sursey Trail under the name First Nation.
Premier Jason Kenny, Transport Minister Rick McIver, Susutina Chief Roy Whitney and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi took turns at the microphone to celebrate the road widening and the economic benefits that come with it.
“It just fits in well with the broader focus on using tax dollars to get people back to work right now,” said Kenny, of the 4 1.4 billion freeway division.
Susutina has invested heavily to take advantage of the road, building new developments, including anchoring a large commercial project called Tajza, including Costco.
Whitney said it would be difficult to pass the road through his country, but that it was “a chance to move forward” thinking about future generations.
However not everyone shared that view.
‘Today is not a good day’
Seth Cardinal Dodginghorse interrupted the photo-ops as he went to the podium to express his anger on the road and share his family story.
He was allowed to speak at length.
- Watch his full statement in the video below
“Today is not a good day,” he said. “I woke up this morning crying like my mother when I heard the news that this road was going to be opened.”
Dodginghors says his family now lives where the road is, and he knows the sidewalks and the trees that are now in place of the asphalt. He said the country had neglected and not supported his family.
“You can’t build prosperity and you can’t build relationships when you wipe out women from this earth,” he said.
‘Not time or place’
Dodginghorse said he would work to make sure his family’s story was not forgotten and asked those gathered to listen.
Then he cut one braid of his long hair and another.
“With this, I’m going to leave a part of myself with the road,” Dodginghorse said. “Thank you for allowing me to share my story.”
When asked what Dodginghorse had to say, Whitney was upset that nearly 80 percent of the country voted in favor of the deal.
“It’s a community decision, and as our elders say – and I’m an adult now – I can say it has time and place and it’s not time or place.”
The rest of the southwest ring road is expected to open next year, McIver said.